Review of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4.7, Across Curriculum Spaces
Millburn High School, New Jersey
Recently, I took the course Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4.7, Across Curriculum Spaces on Udemy (a free online learning platform), which I found to be very interesting. This free online course encourages schools all over the world to integrate sustainability into their curriculum. The speakers in the course were activists and specialists in a wide variety of educational fields. They spoke about why it is necessary to fulfill the United Nations' sustainable development goal, and some methods for doing so. The course also discussed methods of integrating sustainability across different disciplines.
One argument I found notable was proposed by Marc Rogoff, the Lead Educator for the New Jersey Department of Education, and Joy Rifkin, a Sustainability Specialist for the New York City Department of Education, stating that it is important to localize the curriculum. Mr. Rogoff explains, “if you are talking halfway around the world to a bunch of fourth graders, they don’t make the connections. But if you are talking about halfway down the block, it makes a lot more sense and they can relate and it gets them physically and emotionally connected to the issue.” According to Joy Rifkin, change has to be motivated by members of the community and schools are large community centers. Therefore it is key to motivate students to create a chain reaction: teachers encourage students, students encourage parents, etc. Rifkin also argued that sustainability should be taught in every class in school, not just science.
Another point that I found interesting was the connection between social issues with climate change. Educator Julia Sommer asked,, “What are the effects on different communities? Who are the different stakeholders? What motivates different stakeholders to play various roles within this entire issue?" She further explains, "And it is important for educational institutions to teach the civic aspect of this alongside the climate issues.” Understanding the civic aspect exposes how systemic racism affects some marginalized groups more than others in climate change . An example of where social justice and climate change intersect is the seizure of Native American lands for the purpose of mining. After taking the course, I was inspired to do further research and found an interesting article from the New York Times (Tabuchi, Furber, and Davenport) about the Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota. The possibility of an oil spill from this pipeline disproportionately impacts Native Americans. For those of us in the New Jersey/New York region, the drinking water crisis in Newark is an issue of social justice that local teachers could address in their curriculum. For example, a chemistry teacher could talk about the lead crisis in Newark during their toxicology lesson.
I personally think that this course is interesting and useful. Students can use this course, but I would say that it is even more important for teachers, especially science teachers. It is essential that we fulfill SDG 4.7 if we want to mitigate climate change. Implementing these topics in schools is not purely a top down or a bottom up approach, it requires action from both administrators and classroom teachers. As a student, I would like to encourage science teachers to take this course and to implement sustainability in creative ways.